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Normandy Life

Welcome to our new web page – Normandy Life – an opportunity for us to keep all our visitors up to date with what is happening at Le Deshayes.

23 August 2010

We have been busy reducing the size of the house and attach the new plans, elevations and typical section. Hopefully cutting out 30% of the area will bring the costs back to a level we can afford - revised prices are now being sought and we will keep all our readers informed of progress!

Ground Floor Reduced First Floor Reduced


15 August 2010

Okay - so we said that we were enjoying the rain, but enough is enough and the family currently in the Gite deserve some sunshine! We are going to the Spectacle du Nuit tonight at Guehebert, close to Le Deshayes. A cast of 200 present 20 scenes telling the history of Guehebert and the region. A night of lights and music - fantasy and fireworks (well that's what they say on the website!!). Should be fun, so long as the rain stops.

The house saga rumbles on - we looked at the various options to fund the increase in cost, but finally decided that rather than build such a huge house and risk our financial stability we will reduce the size of the house and bring the costs back to a level we could afford. So we are shuffling the layout around and taking out around 25 - 30% of the floor space. Some has been quite easy - the ground floor workshop has gone and we will build an inexpensive shed / workshop in the garden. But taking out that much space on the first floor is proving harder to achieve without seriously changing what we end up with!! Watch this space for the new plans and elevations.

It's been a strange year for the garden - weeks without rain and then lashings for the past week. The fruit trees are having a good year and we had loads of cherries - although oddly the birds haven't bothered to take them this year, we don't understand why not. There are lots of half eaten cherries on the ground, which in turn means loads of wasps!! Hey ho!

1 August 2010

After weeks of hot and hunid weather we are now enjoying some rain - enjoying is perhaps not the right word, but living in this rural corner of France means that we are very aware of the ups and downs of farming life and this rain is long overdue. So we enjoy it - up to the point that the grass starts growing again!!

It's been good having clients in the Gite as so many of them are now good friends. Whilst this year has been the quietest since we first started and our income is therefore lower, it has given us more time to concentrate on the new house project, so not all is lost!!

Details and prices are being firmed up for the house build. We got a good price from our local roofer, including the two chimneys for the log fires, and the excellent guy from our village is preparing an estimate for the groundworks (including stripping the topsoil, excavating for the foundations, laying gravel for the access/parking area, forming the new access onto the site, etc). We are trying to keep the costs in check and hope to place orders shortly. As the frame guys have an eight week lead-in, this will still make late October achievable and give us time to get it weathertight before the winter weather sets in. The frame manufacturer, Turner Timber Frames, continue to impress us with sterling work trying to obtain the best prices for insulation, timber cladding, etc. They will include these materials on the lorries coming over with the frame components - excellent savings against the prices over here! More info as the project progresses.

27 June 2010

South Elevation North Elevation

East ElevationWest Elevation


Elevations and Sections

Good progress on the house. We had a weekend in England and visited the window and door supplier - Skaala (a Finnish company) and the likely frame supplier, Turner Timber Frames - no relation unfortunately, so no discount!! We spent three nights in Hull and had a good break. We plan to get the frame supplier to erect the frame, probably late September or early October. Still loads to resolve, especially agreeing a price with the roofer and starting the dig on site for the foundations - watch this space. Currently we have the farmer's cows on the plot keeping the grass down - so our poles showing the rough outline of the house have been dislodged, but at least the ground is being fertilized!!

Bookings for the Gite have been quiet this year - although it is the first year we have had all the summer holiday weeks booked, which is great!

6 June 2010

Ground Floor Plan - click to see larger image First Floor Plan - click to see a larger image

House Plans - click on a plan to see a larger image

May 2010

What great fun - getting in all the prices for our new house and actually planning to start digging the foundations in July! It's been a few years in the making, but we are now so close. We have prices from frame manufacturers in the UK to compare with the local French companies and a contact in Germany. We are also getting in prices for the timber components, so if need be we can build the frame ourselves - we have to know that our small budget is being used to the best advantage!

Enjoying a trip to Holyrood House in Edinburgh

For the past few weeks we have been distracted by Jonathan's 60th birthday celebrations. Organising a party for 70 people was quite a challenge, but well worth the effort. So many family and friends came over from the UK - amazing! Unfortunately two days after the party Jonathan developed vertigo - we thought it was just a fear of heights, but he lost the sense of balance - very worrying! Our doctor sent him to the local emergency department where he was given a MRI scan and then kept in for two nights - just for observation! Fortunately it has now passed, but it was a hard reminder that he had just turned 60!

So now it's back to work on the house - more prices to obtain, materials to be researched and details to finalise. We will sort out the plans and post them on here in the next blog.

10 February 2010

Good news on the new timber house front - our application for full planning approval (permis de construire) has been accepted by our Mairie or Town Hall - things tend to be done a local basis this side of the Channel. Okay, they did then ask us to complete the form regarding drainage as we will be installing the usual septic tank, but as the local expert has visited, taken some measurements, agreed where everything will go and completed the form for us - hopefully it should all sail through in the next two months. Although as this is France we expect they will find some minor issue or omission!!

Now that things are finally moving, we have been looking to find suppliers for the main materials and services. We prefer to use local people, but with our limited budget we will have to find the best prices even if they are from England, Germany or Eastern Europe! Trying to get responses after leaving messages on the manufacturers' web sites is proving difficult, but we will persevere.

At this time of year our biggest bug-bear is the state of the roads. The farmers are moving vast amounts of manure onto the fields in preparation for spreading it before the next crop of maize is planted. As the field are very wet and muddy, so are the roads - absolutely filthy!! It means the cars are all a similar colour, but as the region depends on these small farmers we mustn't grumble too much. It'll soon be spring and we can enjoy the early roadside flowers!

Wednesday 13 Jan 2010

After a week of snow and cold weather we finally managed to get out for a walk. This photo summed up the beauty of our snow covered landscape - just so long as you don't try and drive up the lane! The tracks are from our farmer's tractor.

Apart from the usual "must lose weight" new year resolution, we resolve to keep this blog up to date this year, so you can all follow our life in this tranquil corner of Normandy and the progress of our new house project. Apologies for the lack of entries for most of last year.

We have been planning our new timber house for a couple of years, but were delayed early last year by a refusal for outline planning due to issues with the supply of electricity. We thought this had been sorted out by our new Mayor when he came round with an approval. With the help of a local Architect we then prepared the necessary plans, etc, for the full planning application - the Permis de Construire. However, when we came to hand in the documents at the Mairie they told us to come back mid-January after the Council meeting where they would decide if they could afford to pay their share of getting electricity to the site - only in France! More in the next episode.

The best bit of the Christmas break was our son's wedding to his beautiful Shells in Ireland. The official registry office wedding on 31st December was great fun and followed by a super new years eve party. But the highlight of the visit was the blessing and reception on 2 Jan 2010. So well organised and such a memorable day - meeting family and friends, a great meal and dancing into the small hours! Loads of photos - many of them on Facebook (search for Jo's profile by using our email address) - but this is the best one of the happy couple:

We were tasked with making and decorating the cakes - a traditional fruit cake, a chocolate biscuit cake and a lemon sponge cake (Matt's favourite!). Great fun to do, although it was rather stressful having to transport them from France through England and on to Ireland!! Fortunately the ferries weren't too rough and everything arrived in good order. Everyone loved them, especially the amusing bride and groom on the top tier!

We hope to get a picture of the two of us in our wedding outfits soon and will add it to the next posting!

We are quite hopeful for Gite bookings this year. Last year was quiet at 16 weeks - but we already have 8 weeks booked or waiting for deposit cheques so far this year, pretty good for January! If we get going on the new house build in the spring we will need all the help we can get, so the more the merrier!!


Sunday 1 March 2009

Primroses (Primevere) in the road verges

We are enjoying our first hint of spring - yes, we know, it won't last! The forecast is for wet and colder weather during the week, but it is lovely working outside at the moment. Yesterday the temperature was up to 19 degrees C - pretty warm for cutting down trees! We are harvesting the wood to the north side of our field - should have been done years ago as some of the trees are 19 years old (we counted the rings!), but now we have got our act together we will follow the local laws and harvest every seven years. It is quite hard work cutting and clearing the timber and as the weather has warmed up the trees are starting to bud - this means that the timber is wetter than if we had cut it earlier in the year and will take longer drying out. The local guy who delivers our fire wood suggested that we should leave it two years before putting it on the fire!! The wood we have harvested probably totals 5 steres or cubic metres and represents about a 300 euros saving - when it is ready to burn that is!!!!

Gite bookings so far this year are, in one way, pretty good - we have eight weeks booked already - but in past years February has been the main booking month and we haven't had any new clients booking last month. We guess things will be slower this year, with more people booking nearer to the main summer holiday period depending on how the economy is picking up.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

We know that everyone experiences ups and downs in their lives, but we think we have had more than our fair share since our last posting on this blog!

We enjoyed Christmas with our son and his fiancee in Dublin - braving the 22 hour ferry crossing from Le Havre to Rosslare and back - and boy was it rough!! We spent the whole of the return trip lying down to avoid being ill, but it was worth it as we had a great time.

When we got home we were busy with the preparations for a dinner party for 12 to celebrate New Year's Eve. We fitted a whole sheet of plywood on top of our dining table to accommodate everyone and prepared 8 courses. As always with French dinner parties the meal progressed slowly and dessert wasn't served until after midnight, but everyone enjoyed the event and the last guests left at 3am. Clearing up was another matter and took two days!

As we relaxed after our busy few weeks we were hit by a bombshell - the new application for outline planning approval for a timber framed house on our field was refused! We couldn't believe it as we had thought it just a formality after having a CU (as they call it in France) for two years up to last November when it ran out of time. The refusal was based on problems providing electricity to the site - only in France! Since then our french neighbours, who were furious with the refusal, have been talking to the Mayor on our behalf and we live in hope that our dream house can still be built.

So to drown our sorrows we decided to search for a car to replace our van - it is not really needed now that we have finished renovating. After checking out the various options we finally came down on a two year old Volvo XC90. We found it on ebay and despite attempts to outbid us, we won the auction and picked up the car last week from Sheffield. It is a great car, so comfortable and easy to drive, it will be ideal for our planned holidays around Europe - our first trip is already booked!

So things are looking up again and life is returning to our usual tranquility.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

At last life is settling down and we can focus on getting the website updated - especially the most important Normandy Life! We will add photos of Les Pommiers now that the renovation is complete and new sections on what to see and do when you come and visit Le Deshayes. We hope all the visitors to the site enjoy the improvements.

Finishing the renovation of Les Pommiers, currently our own house, was a major step forward. Having originally converted the other half of this building into our first Gite, Les Sapins, and then undertaken the renovation of our development house at Hauteville la Guichard, it seemed like we had spent all our time in Normandy working hard for others to enjoy. Whilst our efforts were appreciated, we knew that to properly enjoy this wonderful life together sorting out our own house was the next big priority.

As we have described below, we have created a new kitchen linked to the dining room, a bathroom upstairs and a warm and welcoming lounge. It is now a three double bedroomed house, with loads of space and equipment. However we will not be letting it out this coming year as we can't face the distruption caused by having to decant all our belongings again! Although it was great seeing the reaction of the lovely people who stayed in Les Pomiers this summer.

But - assuming we get all the necessary permissions in place and some decent quotations, late next year we will start building a timber framed house on our field. This will be programmed for completion mid 2010 (in time for Jonathan's 60th birthday party!!) and will allow us to let out our own house, Les Pommiers, for Summer 2010. It will be worth waiting for!!

So what's been happening here - well, we finally managed to have a week in England problem-free!!! Nothing stolen, no colds or flu and lots of great times with family and friends. Whilst in Nottingham we visited Bamfords Auction House in Derby where they were filming an episode of Cash in the Attic. As we actually brought some decorative china we may be seen on the telly bidding, so keep an eye out for two very excited people - well, it was our first time at an auction!! We also went to a car auction in Peterborough, but were out bid for a very nice Volvo V50 (yes, for those that used to know us as Mr & Mrs Volvo, we're back!!). As the cost of second hand cars are currently about half the price in France, we will return early next year to find ourselves a nice used Volvo!

Thursday 29 May 2008

Many apologies to our numerous readers - but - well, we have had a few hiccups. Not with the house renovations, they are moving on very nicely - no, it's everything else that seems to be ganging up on us!

During a recent visit to the UK to attend a wedding in Gretna Green we stopped for a night at a Travel Lodge. When we got up early ready for the long drive north we found some git had broken into the van and nicked my beautiful camera - hence no more progress photos for a while!!

Just to add to the stress levels the PC decided to join in on the fun and packed up - a software malfunction!! Fortunately a really kind friend spent many hours identifying the problem and reloading windows - you just don't need it!!

So, the house renovations ... the dining room is virtually finished and the work to the lounge is progressing well. The walls to the four rooms eventually came down and the rubble taken to the tip. This revealed the great size of the lounge and why we needed such a large oak beam to hold up the floor! It took six of us to lift it into place + Jo and our neighbour helping with the props. It is 28 x 22 cm in section (about 12" x 10") and 4.5m (15') long - a real beast!! The smaller beam and supporting column were much easier to erect. Now that they have had their first coat of stain - to make them look good and to protect them from plaster marks - they look fantastic. We are now putting up the metal studwork, insulation and plasterboard, and expect to have it all painted and in use in two weeks time. Then we will finish off upstairs and the long snagging list!

As soon the camera problems are resolved we will get some up to date photos posted.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Well, we have really motored since our break in Ireland. It was great having our guests in the Gite, especially as they were over here to buy the building at the back of us - our Barn as we describe it, (even though it is a series of very old farm worker dwellings, possibly 500 years old!). Kay and Jerry will be converting it into their permanent home over the next 12 months and as our old nieghbours from Nottinghamshire, it will be good having them living next door again!

While they were here we started using our new kitchen - wonderful and so much better than the old gallery kitchen - but, now the Gite is empty we have moved back in and work continues apace. The kitchen walls are tiled and look great. An unusual colour, but it looks just right against the white units - a great choice by Jo!!!

Plinths and lighting pelmet still to go up, but nearly there. To keep things going and to stay ahead of the electrician, we have built the new wall to create a porch off the new dining room. It is a good size and doesn't detract from the space available for the dining table. Today I also demolished a heavy block wall in the downstairs toilet - a hard, dirty job but one that had to be done!! When we have cleared things up a bit I will photograph the porch and toilet alterations.

Monday 25 February 2008

We are in the middle of another bout of lovely weather - warm enough to eat our lunch outside yesterday! Loads of flowers in the road verges and the birds are singing their hearts out - just great! We had a wonderful weeks break in Ireland visiting our son Matt in Dublin and friends near Gorey. Matt took us to the west coast for a quick visit - breathtaking, especially Achill Island.

Matt and his proud Dad!

The break from renovating was much appreciated, but the hard work continues and we are just about to start to use our new kitchen. Excellent timing as we have guests in the Gite this week and have had to move back into our own house! The plumber finally did everything asked of him and the electrics are live - so no excuses, tomorrow we cook on our posh new cooker and start to fill up the cupboards. For those who have seen our old tiny galley kitchen we are sure you appreciate our joy!

One kitchen ready for use!

By the end of the week we will start fitting out the new dining room and downstairs toilet, a slightly easier job! It is all looking good.

Sunday 27 January 2008

What a lovely day - temperature around 12 degrees C, clear blue sky - fantastic. We went for a long walk along the deserted roads and saw some primroses out. Thought we would share them with you all!

Primroses or Primevère

Real progress has been made on the kitchen - the walls and ceiling are painted, the floor is tiled and the kitchen units are all put together and in place. Tomorrow we will level them all and start securing them to the walls and together. By the end of the week we will have the worktops cut and fitted and the wall tiling well on, if not finished!! Wow - it is actually looking like a real kitchen!

Kitchen cupboards now in place!

The rumour is that the plumber may turn up tomorrow to do the first fix in the kitchen and utility room. A bit slow in responding, but if he does appear we won't be too delayed and it is France after all - so why rush!

Monday 14 January 2008

After a excellent Christmas with our kids and a bout of the dreaded winter tummy upset, we are now back hard at work on the house renovations and happy to bring you up to date with progress - as requested by so many of our readers (well, okay, just Chris, thanks mate!!).

Jo and kids braving the cold wind on the beach at Creances!

We finally managed to get the plumber back to finish the bathroom and enjoyed the luxury of a first floor bathroom over Christmas! He is a great plumber - but way too busy!! The skirtings are all cut to size and are being stained and we still have some fittings to put up and the final colour to put on the walls - the white is just too stark!

Bathroom nearly there!

Progress in the kitchen has been just as dramatic. The opening through to the dining room has now got all four lintols installed and the acrow props have been removed - all safe and secure! The plasterboard has been fitted to the walls and joints are being filled ready for the paint - first coat by the end of the week. We also expect to start tiling the floor this week - now that'll be real progress! The utility room is a bit behind the kitchen, but we are dependant on the plumber again to complete the first fix in there before we can finish the plasterboarding. Hopefully we shall have a working kitchen by the end of the month!

Opening now complete!

We have moved into the Gite for a few weeks to have a break from the dust and turmoil - it is so nice to have a lovely kitchen and a comfortable lounge. Hopefully the house will be ready soon!!

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Excellent progress is being made - well, apart from our rather busy plumber that is! The shower is tiled and grouted, the plasterboard completed and the jointing nearly finished. The bathroom will be painted by the end of the weekend ready for the plumber to finish his work next week - fingers crossed he arrives!

Shower now tiled

In the kitchen the new windows are in and the opening into the dining room is progressing well. We have two of the huge oak lintols installed and are carefully removing the rest of the stone and mud ready to fit the remaining two lintols. Digging out the massive stones at the base of the wall was quite a task, but tomorrow we can concrete the last part of the steps down and start finishing off the sides of the opening with cement and stones. Strangely, we found a small toad hibernating inside the wall. It was about a foot up the wall in damp mud. How it got so far under the house and into the wall is a complete mystery! It is now settling down in new winter quarters in the garden!

The opening nearly there, with the floor above well supported!

Sunday 25 November 2007

Apologies for the delay in updating Normandy Life. This summer was busy in the Gite and we started the planning of the renovations of our house, so some important matters slipped by – sorry!

Life in Le Deshayes is as good as ever. We are now well into the renovations of our own house and expect to have the new kitchen and upstairs bathroom ready for Christmas. It has been hard work these past few weeks. The kitchen will be in the old lean-to utility room on the end of our house. We had to first break up the old concrete floor that rocked – not worth keeping! – and then get the new drainage installed by our friendly, but busy, plumber before laying a new concrete floor. Fortunately we had two friends come over and help mix the concrete.

The concrete floor being laid.

Whilst that was curing we started the work in the smallest of the upstairs bedrooms to convert it into a bathroom. All the walls have either been lined with timber stud walls to accommodate pipe-work or insulated plasterboard to help keep it warm and condensation free. We are including a large 90cm square shower – well, after the tiny ones we have used since we brought the house six years ago we thought we deserved a touch of luxury! The plumber has now installed the first fix pipe-work and we are finishing off the walls. Hopefully we will get the shower tiled this week and the plumber back the week after.

The shower ready for tiling.

Once the new concrete floor in the kitchen was hard enough to work on, we started to break through into the house to form an opening between the kitchen and the dining room. This was always going to be the fun part as the wall is 70cm thick and we couldn’t be sure what condition it was in until we started opening it up! With loads of large acrows supports under the ceiling and floor joists we made a start at removing the stone facings. The wall had been built many years – maybe centuries – ago using random stone held together with mud. Fortunately it held together quite well and we have managed to install the first oak lintel on the new kitchen side and construct the first concrete step down. We can’t break through completely until windows are installed and we can be sure that the local wildlife is kept outside! The concrete block walls have been completed and the windows are promised for Tuesday – now we just hope they fit okay! Once the opening into the dining room is formed and all the oak lintels installed, we will start constructing the new timber stud walls, tiling the floor and installing the new kitchen units. Hard work, but great fun and so nice to have our friends pitch in.

 The opening into the dining room half way through.

Saturday 30 June 07

Yesterday was a big event for us as we went with a French friend to a nature reserve close to Utah Beach – Parc Naturel Régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin – to do a spot of bird watching.  It was a very wet and windy day and we didn’t really expect to see much, but arrived mid morning and walked to a couple of the hides. We did spot a number of beautiful white little egrets, a yellow wagtail, a heron, a coypu and some unusual ducks.  But the highlight of the day was after lunch when we visited an area where there are man-made storks nests and we were fortunate enough to see a nest with four storks in which was absolutely amazing and the first time that both of us have ever seen a stork.  After photographing this we moved to a canal and managed to spot a lone stork in the reeds collecting fish and small eels.  It then flew quite near to where we were parked and we managed to take another photo close up – wonderful.

We have been interested in bird watching since spending a couple of cycling holidays in the Creuse and the Brenne National Park area of France.  We now know that Normandy and the Manche area in particular has some very beautiful nature reserves.  An excellent place for bird-watching holidaymakers.

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